Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cheney vs. Obama/Hot Dogs and Hot Dog Buns/Dancing with the Stars and American Idol

My friend Susan wrote yesterday asking when I was going to talk about Cheney and Obama on National Security.  Blessedly I missed both men's speeches.  But I can't resist smacking down Cheney.  That man spent eight years hunkered down in his bunker while the Sock Puppet President smirked his way through a war, torture, Hurricane Katrina, lots of other never-ending scandals that rocked his administration culminating in a spectacular meltdown of our economy. Now Cheney is everywhere trying pathetically to support the disastrous policies that dumb Americans let him and the Sock Puppet get away with.  And the media gobbled it up acting as though they were reliving another "thrillah in Manilla."  I only watched the highlights with my favorite media moron, Wolf Blitzer on CNN.  Thank god Jon Stewart made gleeful fun of all the media huffing and puffing.  Well if it provides The Daily Show with lots of examples of mockery, then I guess it's not all that bad.  But why do we have to watch Cheney at all.  Even Bush has the good sense to disappear.  

I have a pet peeve as my friend Carl gleefully shared with recent dinner guests.  I was in my local Garden of Eden with Carl when I noticed out of the corner of my eye a pack of hot dogs. Could it be there are eight hot dogs in that package?  I went over and counted and indeed there were.  That's the first time I've ever encountered eight hot dogs packaged together.  Why, I have often wondered, do hot dog companies insist on packaging seven hot dogs when everyone knows that hot dog buns come eight to the package.  Carl was a bit startled by my utter jubilation over this discovery.  But really, how many times have I had to stuff the extra hot dog bun with tuna salad or a slice or two of bologna?  I only wish I could remember the name of the company that so thoughtfully came to their senses and have packaged their hot dogs equally so that a consumer wouldn't have to waste their time thinking about this.  

This week "Dancing with the Stars" and "American Idol" surprised most of their audiences by selecting as their winners two underdogs that weren't on the face of it, supposed to win.  Well I for one was rather disappointed to find out that Gilles, the favored French heart throb had been beaten out by Shawn, a 17-year-old Olympic Gold Medalist.  Gilles had proven himself to be a natural, sexy, graceful and compelling male presense on the dance floor week after week. Shawn had good technique, but she lacked maturity and her dances whether she was doing the samba, the Paso doble, a waltz, fox trot or lindy, seemed blandly competent.  She got better as the competition moved towards the final, as Gilles faltered a bit for a few weeks.  Well Gold Medalists always win these competitions and besides, Gilles was let down terribly by his dance partner and choreographer, Cheryl, who came up with a dull-dog of a freestyle dance for them in the final.  PUHLEESE CHERYL!  FLAST DANCE?  The freestyle was supposed to be about Gilles not you!  Meanwhile Shawn and her partner, Mark, waltzed off with the points in their freestyle with a fast and inventive romp that had the audience on its feet and convinced me then that she would take the trophy.  But I'm not at all sad for Gilles.  He's probably drowning with offers to act in movies or a TV series.   What's Shawn going to do?  It's terrible to peak at 17.  

I don't pay  much attention to "American Idol," mostly because the sheer banality of the talent and the terrible music they perform, or at least the awful versions of the songs these kids cover, is more than I can stand.  But I was fascinated to read the New York Times this morning as Stephen Holden pondered the fact that the androgynous young man who was beat out by a bland 23-year-old may have been the victim of homophobia.  Well if that's the case, how the hell did Clay Aiken win the prize?  Even though he came out after his win a few years ago, nobody would mistake that guy for a heterosexual.  And was Holden kidding when he tried to compare these two performers to Elvis and Pat Boone?  I don't remember ever thinking that Elvis was androgynous.  Ah American culture.  It's just

And now for a restaurant recommendation.  In these tough economic times, it's fun to encounter a really good neighborhood restaurant that actually serves cheap food.  LA CARBONARA may have an unfortunate name (they might as well have called it Tutta Pasta!), but this recent bright spot in Chelsea serves seriously good Italian food at prices you won't believe.  None of the entrees is priced more than $14.95 and pasta entrees, made with care, can be ordered for as little as $9.  Formerly known as Primativo, a dreary and often empty restaurant on the east side of 14th Street (just west of 7th Ave.), LA CARBONARA has a spruced up exterior all white with a red awning, and has the feeling of a well designed modern trattoria with an attractive interior, that's far nicer than it's prices would indicate.  Packed since the day it opened, the food demonstrates why.  The fried calamari, the Caesar salad, and the baked eggplant with mozzarella are highly recommended.  The bright mixed salad with a lemon viniagrette is garnished with tiny curls of raw carrot and beet.  I've ordered the rigatoni with eggplant and ricotta as well as the rigatoni with roasted cauliflower, pine nuts, and bread crumbs and thought highly of both.  Of the entrees go for the Baked salmon with lentils or the excellent Pork saltimboca or the tender braised Lamb Shank.  They offer a wide variety of wines gently priced from $22 a bottle and up. The ricotta cheesecake and the creme brulee cappucino style are good choices for dessert.  This really good restaurant is an outstanding addition to the neighborhood and an amazing value.  
My first installment happened way before I actually flew to Portland to buy a house in early May. Since then I've fallen in and out of love with a house that was long on charm but would ultimately be a money pit.  I loved the area, but wold have to travel through some dicey neighborhoods of the city to get there.  The ironic thing about this house is that I fell in love with the front and back yards which would require a lot of work.  I'm not a gardener.  I've read approximately two garden books in my life.  I own a multi-part DVD series on the great gardens of the world, but only because it was narrated by Audrey Hepburn, my favorite movie goddess.  If Audrey was starring in a series demonstrating how to install appliances in your home, I'd buy the DVDs.  Suddenly I'm staring in awe at a twenty-foot lilac bush in full bloom in the backyard while logic is screaming at me to run: the master bedroom was in the basement and the bathroom sink shared space with the washer and dryer.  I would need to install a new stairway, and lower the floors so my head wouldn't scrape the ceiling.  

As many of you know, another house grabbed me and refused to let go.  This lovely 1938 Cape Cod beauty was move-in ready, had a beautiful and roomy updated kitchen that made me weep in gratitude, a second floor laundry room, an airy master bedroom with a walk-in closet and an en-suite bathroom, all in my targeted neighborhood.  It even has a long second floor balcony off the master bedroom where I can contemplate life and my neighbor's back yards.  The house would cost as much as the fixer-uppers after they had been fixed up!  

The negotiation had some snags that took away from the pleasure of the purchase.  I found myself threatening to walk whenever negotiations bogged down, but in the end, the house was mine.  So back home, it was time to set the move into motion.  

Let me tell you, finding a mover, setting the dates, arranging the financing, and trying to make sure Beau, my six-year-old brindled French bulldog, isn't freaking out because he definitely knows something is up.  But it occurred to me that I had to figure out how to get him out to Portland.  I became alarmed when I found out he's really too heavy at 24 pounds to bring on the plane with me.  The airlines want a dog to weigh in at between 16 and 20 pounds.  I momentarily lost my mind and considered sending him to Portland in steerage.  The airlines won't allow a dog with a flat nose to fly cargo in the summer if there's a possibility that the temperature will climb above 85 degrees.  Then I found a service that will take your dog and get him to the destination of your choice, in my case, for more than $4000!  Scratch that.  As I began to whine to my friends, I was instantly reassured that Beau would easily qualify to come on board the plane with me because they brought their larger dogs with them and nobody weighs the dog as long as it isn't as big as a Labrador Retreiver.  No chance of that since Beau is built very low to the floor.  So I got him a carrier and will try to bluff our way onto the plane. Okay, I think that problem is solved for now.  Next.

My friends are trying to be brave as possible.  Everyone is saying to me, "I'm so happy for you, and so sad for me."  Maryann likes to remind me that this is the dumbest idea of many dumb ideas she's endured as my friend for more than 30 years.  But those who know me seem to be genuinely excited.  I'm ridiculously rich in friends.  Nobody should have as many pals as I do.  They have been accumulated, romanced, nurtured, and loved since I became an adult.  I like a wide variety of friends, and I've finally learned who to mix in with my regular set, and who to see on my own. But now I'm going to try to gather them all together in June for one farewell bash at my friend, Alison's perfect party apartment.  I'm thinking 50 people will show up and I'm thrilled to be able to kiss and hug'em all before I get out of Dodge.  So there's another thing to organize before I go.  

My buds at my local dog run where Beau and I go every day rain or shine, also want to send me off in fine style and we've organized a drink night at a local pub near the dog run.  Then Maryann decided to host a gathering of my publishing friends.  This is all wonderful--with lunches and dinners planned until the last day.  But there's a wrinkle to all this partying...

I'm over-the-moon about my new doctor, which my great friend, Carl recommended.  Dr. Leichman has the greatest bedside manners of any doctor I've ever known except my dentist, Dr Siegal.  He's funny, warm, reassuring, and very thorough. For years I had a wonderful doctor, though a tad argumentative at times.  But when I moved my business home and started paying my own insurance premiums, I could no longer afford him.  Two doctors later, and here was Dr. Leichman.  He took a lot of blood and when I returned home from Portland, I went to see him for the results.  His response?  "The party's over."  My cholesterol, always high (part of the family DNA), was over 300.  My triglycerides were in the area where some are dignosed with pancreatitus, and my glucose was loudly proclaiming "diabetes."  Time to take stock.  Well I've been playing with fire for years now with my health.  My weight has ballooned out of control, and as my friend Susan likes to remind me, "Greg just because you take massive amounts of cholesterol controlling drugs doesn't give you permission at your age to eat precisely what you want."  Damn.  I hate that.  

But truth be told, I got a bit of a sense that maybe it was time to start taking this lifestyle change seriously.  Here I am moving out into the wild blue yonder where everyone is into a more healthy lifestyle.  The simple fact of the matter is that I drink like a fish (though I'm always well behaved) and indiscriminately eat more than my fair share of red meat, pasta, rice, butter, eggs, cheese, bread (my homemade bread is addictive), olive oil, cookies, cake, pie, ice cream and candy.  I'm either cooking for myself or my friends, or I'm dining out in the greatest food city in the world.  So all this indulging eradicates all the good vegetables and the "Mediterranean-style" food lifestyle that I like to think try to follow.  

I went on the wagon seven days ago, and I've been eating lots of veggies, fish, chicken, oatmeal, beans, while strenuously avoiding all my trigger foods.  It's not bad, actually.  I miss cookies, but all in all, I'm doing rather well for someone on a diet.  I did cheat a bit yesterday at lunch.  I ate some sushi.  But got right back in the diet saddle for dinner with some grilled Tilapia and a bountiful veggie salad.  Some of these parties will be tough.  While all my friends are tippling, I'll be sucking on a diet Coke.  But I am determined to get those numbers down.  

Coming challenges and shopping for appliances.